Grilling outdoors safely

By Tanya Davis | Published Wednesday, May 18, 2016

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With graduation, Father’s Day and many other summer activities approaching, many of you are sure to fire up the outdoor grill to help with food preparation.

Outdoor grilling is a popular way to prepare food during warmer weather while enjoying the company of family and friends. However, grilling does open the door to foodborne illness if proper cleanliness and preparation measures are not followed.

To make your cookout a fond memory rather than a regretful experience, follow these simple steps.

Food preparation:

  • Select fresh meat, poultry or seafood that is high quality for best cooking results.
  • Keep these perishable products at 40 degrees F or colder until immediately before grilling.
  • Thaw frozen food in the refrigerator and discard leftover marinade.
  • Wash your hands before and after working with raw meat, poultry or seafood.
  • Wash your work surfaces and cutting boards with hot, soapy water before and after preparing food. To sanitize, use 1 teaspoon bleach per quart of warm water. If possible, use a separate cutting board for fresh produce and raw meat, poultry or seafood.
  • When away from home, keep your meat and poultry away from other food in a separate cooler with ice. This prevents cross contamination.
  • After placing raw meat on the grill, wash utensils and platters with hot, soapy water before using them to serve cooked food.
  • Cook foods to an internal temperature that destroys harmful bacteria. Check the temperature by placing a thermometer in the center-most part of the meat, not touching the bone.

Internal temperatures for thorough cooking to prevent foodborne illnesses are:

  • Whole poultry – 165 degrees F
  • Poultry breasts – 165 degrees F
  • Ground beef patties – 160 degrees F
  • Ground poultry – 165 degrees F
  • Beef, veal, lamb steaks, roasts or chops – 145 degrees F (yields medium rare doneness)
  • All cuts of pork – 160 degrees F (yields medium doneness)

Safe handling of cooked food:

  • Serve food immediately after grilling or keep at 135 degrees F or above until served.
  • Place on a clean platter.
  • Refrigerate on a clean platter.
  • Refrigerate all leftovers immediately at 40 degrees F or below.

Discard any food left out longer than two hours, or one hour if temperature is above 90 degrees F.

Note: These temperatures are recommended for consumer cooking. They are not intended for processing, institutional or food service preparation. Food service workers should consult their state or local food code or health department.

And finally, if you are looking for a recipe to make your own rub to use on meats throughout this grilling season, you might want to try the following, courtesy of the Texas Beef Council.


  • 2 teaspoon sweet paprika
  • 2 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • teaspoon ground black pepper
  • teaspoon ground red pepper
  • teaspoon ground white pepper

Combine all ingredients. Store in airtight container. Shake before using.

For information about safe outdoor grilling or food safety, call Texas A&M AgriLife Extension, Wise County at 940-627-3341.

Tanya Davis is a Wise County Extension agent.

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